2023 Conference on International Cyber Security | 7-8 November 2023
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Panel 8


Cyber Dimensions of the War in Ukraine

Nadiya Kostyuk

Nadiya Kostyuk is an Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy and the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Institute of Technology.  Her research focuses on security studies, modern warfare, cyber conflict, cyber institutions and capability, Russian and Eurasian politics. Dr. Kostyuk’s research has been published (or is forthcoming) in International Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Global Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Security, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Cyber Defense Review, and several edited volumes and general-audience publications.  Her research has been supported by the Belfer Center for Science and International Technology at Harvard's Kennedy School, the Department of Computer Science and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and the Cybersecurity, Internet Governance, Digital Economy, and Civic Tech Initiative at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Nadiya is a co-organizer (with Christopher Whyte) of the Digital Issues Discussion Group.  She received degrees from University of Michigan (PhD), New York University (MSc), City University of New York John Jay College (B.A. 2011), and Kyiv National Linguistic University (B.A.).




War and the Internet: The case of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

How do cyber operations impact the course of war? Does 'the fifth domain' provide important combat advantages, for instance by disrupting enemy command and control to create windows of opportunity? Or is cyber conflict just a minor sideshow to the main theater of war? Worse, does the physical destruction of information infrastructure preclude cyber conflict altogether? The Russian escalation in Ukraine since February 2022 provides a unique opportunity to explore questions like these. Visible dramatic cyber effects have yet to materialize in this war, to the puzzlement of many observers, but there has still been a lot of continuous, if understated, activity in the cyber domain. While it looks nothing like 'cyberwar' per se, there is still a lot of cyber in this war. This paper offers an initial empirical appraisal of the relationship between kinetic combat activity and some observable cyber activity. Specifically, we use recent innovations in Internet traffic measurement to understand the relative relationship between Internet outages, cyber attacks, and kinetic military operations. Using new events data---the Internet Outage Detection and Analysis dataset and the Violent Incident Information from News Articles dataset---we present the quantitative analysis of the tactical use of cyber and kinetic military operations during a large-scale conventional war. We find a small degree of correlation between Russia's digital and terrestrial fronts in this war, but the impact of these fronts on each other is quite minimal. Nevertheless, cyberspace remains an available domain amidst a raging land war. This suggests that cyber operations are more likely relevant in the realm of information rather than kinetic combat.